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MSU student says Apple air tag tracked her; how you can stay safe

December 8, 2021
<p>An East Lansing police car is pictured on July 6th, 2017.</p>

An East Lansing police car is pictured on July 6th, 2017.

Photo by Jon Famurewa | The State News

While technology has been implemented around campus to help identify theft and help in investigating crimes, one specific item can cause danger and insecurity to students — air tags. 

Apple air tags, while intended to find lost belongings, have been used to track and have open access to the location of people without their consent, which has caused a rise in concern. 

Journalism junior Brooke Miller took to social media Nov. 23 to warn Michigan State students about her experience after learning she had been traveling with an air tag that was not hers. 

The incident occurred when she was going home for Thanksgiving break after taking her car out from the Communication Arts and Sciences parking garage, and she drove straight from there to her house without stops.

In the post, she said she had not been notified of the air tag until she was miles away.

“I didn't get a notification until an hour after I'd gotten home,” Miller said. 

Miller said she did not report this case to East Lansing Police Department, or ELPD.

She decided to contact Apple after consulting members of her family in law enforcement. The customer service representative told her if the air tag had not been picked up since she got home, it may have fallen off. 

“It tracked it right to my house,” Miller said. “We looked at the map, (tracing) it right into our driveway. So, we never ended up finding it. Apple did what they could, it hasn't been tracked since then.”

ELPD Captain Chad Connelly said he does not believe any crimes have transpired in the area associated with air tags.

“What we found is that they potentially were driving by or parked near areas where people had air tags and their AirDrop, or their Bluetooth was open, allowing those air tags to sync on to their phone,” he said. 

In a situation that you believe you are being air-tagged or are suspicious of being air-tagged, Connelly said to first find out where it is coming from, whether that possibly be your own device or a stranger's.

“Best case scenario for everybody is if they see something suspicious on their phone to make note of it and take a screenshot of it,” Connelly said. 

Connelly recommended students make sure their AirDrop and Bluetooth functions on their iPhones are not open to random, new connections. 

He also encouraged students to contact local law enforcement in case of suspicious activity or cause for concern. 

“If they find an air tag placed on a piece of property that belongs to them that they are not aware of, then they should absolutely contact local law enforcement and file the report because there is the potential that these air tags could be used for purposes outside of legal means,” Connelly said. 

Miller advised students to stay on the lookout for suspicious activity and to be aware of their surroundings to prevent similar incidents from transpiring.

“It's a problem,” Miller said. “Like, I'm not the first person that's happened to, I'm not going to be the last person It happens to.”

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